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April 06, 2008

Viral disease kills goats, sheep in Kenya

Hundreds of sheep and goats have been killed by a viral disease in parts of North Rift. The disease is suspected to have spread into Kenya from a neighbouring country.

Peste de petits ruminant poses a great risk to the lives of 13 million sheep and goats in Rift Valley Province unless urgent measures are taken to contain its spread.

The Kenya Livestock Breeders Organisation said the outbreak was of great concern as it posed a great threat to the gains made in the livestock sub-sector. The organisation’s national chairman, Mr Christopher Chirchir, called on the Government to act swiftly and contain the situation.

“The livestock sub-sector cannot thrive in an environment where outbreak of animal diseases is the order of the day. This will make it difficult for the country to market its livestock products outside,” Mr Chirchir said. He said the Government should ensure that it had in its stores vaccines for a wide range of livestock diseases that are rampant in the region, to enable it respond to any outbreaks promptly.

The viral disease, which was first detected in Turkana North District early last year, is feared to have spread to parts of West Pokot, Samburu, Marakwet, Keiyo and East Pokot districts.

Veterinary officers said that the outbreak was of great concern to them as the country had no vaccine to contain it.

The provincial director of veterinary services, Dr Geoffrey Muttai, said the disease was first detected in Oropoi and Lokichoggio divisions of Turkana North District in March 2007. He said it was suspected that the disease was spread in the Turkana North District following the movement of stolen livestock across the Kenya-Sudan border.

“This is a viral disease that affects the small stock, mainly sheep and goats. A sick animal normally develops pneumonia before it becomes diarrhoeaic, killing it within a week or two,” he said.

He added: “We are conducting the vaccination as well as sensitising livestock owners on how to check the spread of the disease.” “The disease is mainly spread when an animal comes into contact with an infected one, or when a sick animal contaminates pasture or water points,” Dr Muttai said. He said different teams of veterinary officers and animal health technicians had been deployed to the field to assess the extent of the disease spread.

The deputy director of veterinary service in charge of disease and pest control programme, Dr Simon Kimani, said that the disease had low survival rate for infected animals. He said the department was unable to obtain information immediately the disease occurred in Turkana to enable his team to respond promptly.

He, however, said the department, through the support of Food and Agricultural Organisation, managed to vaccinate 1.4 million sheep and goats in the larger Turkana District.

The deputy director of veterinary services said the department had ordered close to 500,000 doses of vaccines from Ethiopia. The vaccines were being sourced from a centre funded by the African Union and which specialises in the manufacture of a wide range of livestock vaccines.

Several teams of veterinarians would be dispatched to vaccinate the animals immediately the drug arrives, Dr Kimani said. He said this was the first time the disease was being reported in the country, explaining why vaccines to deal with the menace could not be available locally.

“As of now we cannot say that the situation is under control given that we have no vaccines in the country to enable us effectively deal with the problem,” Dr Kimani said.

The deputy director of veterinary services said the viral disease was prevalent in Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia among other countries in the region.

Dr Kimani said the Kenya Veterinary Vaccines Production Institute (Kevepapi) planned to start manufacturing vaccines for the disease. “The staff at Kevevapi are modifying the machines, which they used for the manufacture of rinderpest, which has since been eliminated in the country to start manufacturing vaccines for peste de petits ruminant,” he said.

He said Kenya and Uganda had started a joint project to check against the spread of the disease following increased incidents of livestock criss-crossing the common border. He said vaccination needed to be repeated annually to ensure that the disease was effectively contained.

“The vaccination exercise would mainly be guided by the animals’ movement in the region. We consider most parts of North Rift region as being of high risk and that is where we will mainly focus,” Dr Kimani said.

He added that the department would also vaccinate animals in areas bordering Ethiopia where the disease was prevalent. Dr Muttai said that quarantine, which had been imposed in Turkana North following the outbreak, was later lifted after the animals were vaccinated.

The provincial vector control officer, Mr Alfred Cheruiyot, said that the department has so far managed to vaccinate 1,514,358 sheep and goats. He said 1.4 million sheep and goats were vaccinated in the larger Turkana district, while 28,338 animals had been vaccinated in West Pokot district. Some 17,000 sheep and goats had been vaccinated in Samburu District, while 1,000 animals at ADC farm in Trans Nzoia East District had been vaccinated, added the vector control officer.

The department, he stated, had no data on the number of animals which could have died of the disease.

The vector control officer said livestock owners were advised to isolate the sick animals to check against the rapid spread of the disease.

Daily Nation

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